A high-level US engagement in the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) will be practically ruled unless the conflicting parties themselves are closer to a resolution, according to Richard Giragosian, the Director of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center (RSC).
In an interview with Tert.am, the expert commented upon upon the upcoming round of talks between Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Elmar Mammadyarov, considering the meeting very significant despite the somewhat “low expectations”.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani top diplomats are meeting in Washington later today to conduct negotiations under the umbrella of the OSCE Minsk Group.
Mnatsakanyan, who travelled to United States on Tuesday, yesterday had a meeting with the US, French and Russian co-chairs of the mission.
“The latest round of talks of the Karabakh (Artsakh) peace process was held today, 19 June, in Washington, between Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Elmar Mammadyarov. Although expectations are rather low, the meeting is significant for two main reasons.
“First, the site of the meeting is important, as a chance for Washington to show that despite a long period of ‘diplomatic neglect,’ the US remains an active and equal co-chair of the OSCE’s Minsk Group, despite the reality that both France and the United States have tended to follow Russia’s lead in the diplomatic mediation effort.
“But there is no role for the US Secretary of State in this round of talks as such involvement at the highest level by Secretary of State Pompeo would only come if the negotiators were closer to a resolution, which is certainly not the case now. But the involvement of the US National Security Advisor John Bolton is confirmation of the Trump Administration’s recent interest in adopting a more active involvement in the conflict, also as a factor related to US policy toward Iran as well as Russia,” Giragosian explained.
Bolton shared his expectations of the upcoming meeting his official Twitter microblog on Tuesday, describing it as a good opportunity “to encourage continued dialogue.” He also expressed the United States’ readiness to assist the parties in reaching peace.
Another factor that makes the meeting important, Giragosian said, is “the continuation of the diplomatic process, rather than the previous situation of Azerbaijan’s preference for the threat of force.”
“Yet the real test is to what degree the past promises and pledges can be fulfilled, including the implementation of the earlier joint statement reiterating the intention to strengthen the ceasefire regime and other confidence-building measures,” he said.
The expert also highlighted the unfulfilled promises by Azerbaijan to abide by the commitment to strengthen the confidence building measures (CBMs). “First, the record of Azerbaijan’s promises is matched by its history of failing to meet its obligations. Promise haves not been kept before and Baku has failed to fulfill its promises in recent years. This means that the international community needs to demand that Baku meet its expectations for CBMs. Second, such support for confidence-building measures should include all parties to the conflict, and Karabakh (Artsakh) needs to be present and represented. There is no other way to expect CBMs to work.”
The expert also called for future steps towards widening the international audience to attract a more active civil society engagement in the process, increasing the chances of sharing information on the status of peace talks. Meantime he warned against imposing any position.
“The conflict can only be resolved by the parties themselves, and although international support and mediation is important and helpful, it is not the answer alone,” he said.